Alcobaça, Monastery of

   Located in Alcobaça, Leiria district, this is Portugal's largest church and premier religious monument in Gothic style. Alcobaça was established by the first Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques, in the 12th century. According to tradition, its foundation followed the king's wish after the relief of the town of Santarém from the Moors. The king chose Cistercian monks, recently arrived from France, to oversee the project and administer the establishment. Construction of what became a Cistercian abbey and church began only in 1178. After many delays, the church was finally completed and dedicated in 1252, although parts of the building were unfinished. The massive structure is in the shape of a Latin cross, and the naves are over 60 feet high. Various Portuguese kings and their families are buried in Alcobaça; here also are the famous tombs of the ill-fated Dona Inês de Castro and King Pedro I.
   Among 18th-century visitors and travelers who made the beauty and wonder of Alcobaça famous in England and elsewhere was the wealthy English eccentric and writer William Beckford, whose 1835 account of his visits to Alcobaça, in effect, put Portugal on the map of English travelers henceforth.
   See also Architecture.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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